Hatch attack: His allegations don’t fit the facts

A couple of problems — well questions anyway — are raised by what former Attorney General Mike Hatch said Monday to MPR about state Rep.Steve Simon’s motives for pursuing allegations of  improprieties during Hatch’s tenure at AG and that of his protégé/successor Lori Swanson.

As a matter of written policy, Mr. Hatch doesn’t speak to me and he extended the same courtesy to my esteemed MinnPost colleague G.R. Anderson who covered the Monday meeting at which Legislative Auditor James Nobles presented the results of his recent review of the attorney general’s office and some of the alleged improprieties.

But Mr. Hatch’s media relations policies do allow him to publicly impugn the motives of those who question his conduct and possibly to do so without necessarily limiting himself to the facts of the matter.

To be precise: Rep. Simon did ask some questions of Nobles at the Monday meeting about whether everything under Mr. Hatch was always done strictly according to Hoyle.

And Mr. Hatch, in explaining things to MPR’s excellent Tim Pugmire, did say that Rep. Simon was motivated by revenge because he “lost his job in the attorney general’s office.”

Pugmire did quote Rep. Simon to the effect that Hatch’s statements about him were untrue, but in the space allotted to that small arabesque in the MPR story, it came across as merely what the critics like to call he-said-she-said journalism.

‘Zero truth’
I say, quoting a Russian proverb, that the heart of another is a dark forest (“Chuzhaia dusha potemk”), I freely admit that I don’t know what motivated Rep. Simon. But I did speak to him Tuesday.  I can tell you what he told me, much of which can be checked out. And if Rep. Simon’s claims are true they are difficult to reconcile with Mr. Hatch’s version of Rep. Simon’s motives.

Rep. Simon said there’s “zero truth” to Mr. Hatch’s statement about his departure from the AG’s office. Simon was a former assistant attorney general from 1996 to 2001, did work under Hatch and his then top aide Swanson. But Rep. Simon said that he did not “lose his job” at the AG’s office. Rather he left it voluntarily and “on [his] own terms” to go into private practice with the firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, which is not universally considered a step down from a job in the AG’s office.

Rep. Simon recalls being “given a very warm sendoff by Mike Hatch personally” and congratulated by Mr. Hatch on his excellent new position. As supporting evidence that he left on mutual good terms with Mr. Hatch, Rep. Simon told me that Hatch had gone doorknocking for him in his 2004 campaign for the Legislature and that he, Rep. Simon, had contributed to the 2006 campaigns of both Mr. Hatch for governor and Ms. Swanson for attorney general.

Those facts can be verified and seem difficult to reconcile with Mr. Hatch’s portrayal of an angry parting with grudges nursed and revenge plotted.

Character assassination
Simon said his motivation for asking Nobles to pursue allegations of AG’s office improprieties is that the allegations have been brought to him by people he knew from his former work in the office and they are serious enough to merit investigation:

“I just think it’s unfortunate that the first response to serious allegations is to engage in smear tactics and making up facts. These aren’t my allegations. This is the classic example of shooting the messenger. Well maybe not shooting, but smearing and defaming the messenger. Generally speaking, this kind of attempted character assassination is unfortunate and a distraction.”

In my own recent reporting into the trauma that Mr. Hatch’s leadership visited on the AG’s office, it was alleged by his subordinates that Mr. Hatch could not tolerate disagreement or criticism and was likely to take revenge on any critics.

Perhaps this public attack on Rep. Simon’s motives, competence and character is an example of this. Or perhaps Mr. Hatch can prove that he actually did fire Rep. Simon and can explain to some reporter with whom he is on speaking terms the acts of political friendship traveling in both directions between Rep. Simon and himself after Simon left the AG’s office.

If Mr. Hatch decides to reply to me, with an interview or another written statement, I will convey his evidence to MinnPost’s faithful readers.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by John E Iacono on 07/02/2008 - 10:49 am.

    I remember, back when he was a young man, being positively impressed with Mike Hatch’s efforts as an Insurance Commissioner to improve the performance of insurance companies in Minnesota, and to foster the development of long term care insurance.

    His reputation for integrity then helped him achieve political office.

    I have also heard persistent rumors that once there he showed an arrogant side which also surfaced during his election campaigns.

    I would, however, be no more surprised to learn of unethical behavior on his part during his AG term than I would be to learn of vengeful wrongdoing on the part of his political enemies. Let’s hope the truth will eventually surface. Keep at it, Eric.

  2. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 07/02/2008 - 10:50 am.

    Whatever Mike Hatch’s foilables, Mr. Black, your reporting is looking like a personal attack. I know Hatch has many enemies, but the press shouldn’t be one of them, whether he is speaking to you or not.

  3. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 07/02/2008 - 02:14 pm.

    Mike Hatch has political enemies. On that we can probably all agree.

    From everything I know and everything I have seen, Rep. Steve Simon is not one of them.

    We have seen ample evidence on a national level in the past years of what happens when political ‘friends’ are exempted from rules and laws.

    If we, as a nation and state, are to remain a society governed by laws, a society whose laws protect and bind both the weak and the strong, we must be willing to see those law applied equally to political friend or foe – and let the chips fall where they may.

    From everything I have seen, that is all Rep. Simon, the Legislative Audit Commission and Legislative Auditor James Nobles are attempting to do.

    As chair of the local DFL in Rep. Simon’s District I have a fair opportunity to see him in action and have never seen anything that would support any of the statements offered by Mike Hatch as are described in this article.

    Quite the contrary. From what I know of Steve Simon as a person, as a lawyer and as a legislator, my deep impression is that his position would more likely be as follows: Fiat justitia, ruat coelum.

    “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.”

  4. Submitted by Mike Finley on 07/02/2008 - 01:46 pm.

    This story needs a link to the MPR interview with Hatch — otherwise, we don;t know what this is about.

    I too knew Hatch during his days as insurance commissioner. He had a populiost zeal about him, and he returned phone calls. So naturally I liked him a lot. But like many pols, he is a sensitive soul — you could see it boiling over in his last campaign. Hubris, you are like unto a bazooka.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 07/02/2008 - 09:51 am.

    AG Hatch’s Subterfuge

  6. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 07/02/2008 - 03:24 pm.

    Questions raised about Hatch-negotiated deal
    by Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
    June 30, 2008

    …Hatch blamed DFL Representative Steve Simon of St. Louis Park for pushing the issue….


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